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Viewing Blog: Sarah McIntyre, Most Recent at Top
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Blog of Sarah McIntyre, children's book writer & illustrator
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1. #portraitchallenge: mulay ahmad of tunis, by rubens, 1609

Here's my watercolour version of today's #PortraitChallenge. It's a portrait by Peter Paul Rubens and I discovered it first on the @medievalpoc account on Twitter. You can find out more about it on the Museum of Fine Arts Boston website.

And the pencil lines, before I coloured them in. Check out the other drawings over at @StudioTeaBreak, they're fab! :)

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2. #portraitchallenge: virginia woolf

Here's my drawing for today's @StudioTeaBreak #PortraitChallenge! I took a bit of liberty with her nose; I didn't want it to look like an exact copy of the photo.

Virginia Woolf

Here's the original, a platinum print photo by George Charles Beresford from 1902, at the National Portrait Gallery. See other people's drawings over here on Twitter!

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3. the prince of pants: meeting alan macdonald

Something very exciting happened today... I went to the Scholastic UK offices and got to meet Alan MacDonald, the writer of our upcoming picture book, The Prince of Pants!! (You might recognise Alan as the writer of the Dirty Bertie books with David Roberts.)

Lately I've gotten used to working on books with people I already know, but Alan's text was so good, and had so much space for me to put fun stuff into it with the pictures, that I jumped on it. But I kept being like, WHEN ARE WE GOING TO MEET??! HUH? HUH?? So FINALLY. (And he's ace.) Also fabulous are the team we worked with on the book! Here's our editor (who's from Finland!), Pauliina Malinen, and I worked on the pictures and layout with awesome designer Strawberrie Donnelly (on the right).

Strawberrie took a big risk with this book because she tried out a brand-new kind of ink, and we had no idea how it would turn out. On the first test print run, everyone's skin came out bright orange, like Donald Trump, and we were so nervous that it wouldn't work on the second batch... but it did! The colours look awesome and... oh my goodness, are they BRIGHT! I hope you get to see what I mean, you could almost get a suntan if you looked at the interiors of this book for too long. And the glow-in-the-dark pants at the end really glow!

Here are a couple development paintings I did right at the beginning of the project, to try to figure out how Prince Pip would work. You might recognise the fat pony from the #PictureMeanBusiness campaign. I've been slightly obsessed with fat ponies lately. (Credit to Philip Reeve, who actually painted the first fat Pegasus picture.)

And here are our publicity team who helped us make some videos, Lucy Richardson and Olivia Horrox. I did a couple drawing tutorials (which I hope I can show you later), and we even filmed ourselves singing our new PANTS song. I was super-nervous, I'd only practiced it the night before, and I didn't know if I'd be able to play it without fluffing it every few strums on the ukulele. But I was super-proud that we did it in one take, even if I broke out in a massive post-traumatic stress sweat afterward, like all the menopauses at once, ha ha.

The Prince of Pants comes out in October, and we can't wait to show it to you!

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4. #picturesmeanbusiness: the bookseller rising stars 2016

I was chuffed to get a call from journalist Tom Tivnan, that The Bookseller had put me up for their Rising Stars gallery, for my work on the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign. It's nice to be recognised, but even better, it's great to see The Bookseller championing a campaign that was initially critical of them. They took the criticism in a thoughtful, professional way, made changes to the way they credited illustrators, and they're now real champions of the cause. Thank you, Tom, Fiona Noble, Philip Jones, Charlotte Eyre, Sarah Shaffi, Natasha Onwuemezi, Kiera O'Brien, FutureBook's Porter Anderson and everyone who have been working hard to credit illustrators and encouraging other people to do so, too. We're definitely making progress and seeing more illustrator names on front book covers and illustrators mentions in the media (including in The Bookseller).

While I don't think it's really a one-person campaign - it takes lots of people to make a difference - The Bookseller are leading the way and I'm very grateful to them for that. Article by Tom Tivnan ('cos #JournalismMeanBusiness):

I've highlighted the bits I think are the most important, and I can only do this campaigning because of the support I've had from my co-author Philip Reeve, Liz Cross and our publisher OUP, my agent Jodie Hodges, Joy Court of the Carnegie-Greenaway committee, the Society of Authors (Nicola Solomon, Niall Slater, Jo McCrum), Andre Breedt and the data team at Nielsen, Kellie Barnfield and Helen Graham at Little Brown for their help with data, Kate Wilson for starting up the Illustrator Salons, and all the writers, illustrators, bloggers, reviewers, booksellers and people in publishing who have been looking out to see illustrators credited properly and professionally.

A lot of illustrators are still frightened of looking like 'trouble' to speak out, but from what they say to me in private, I know your help will be hugely appreciated. Working as a freelance illustrator is a scary job, especially if you don't have a working partner or family who can look after you when your pay is uneven. I've been lucky that my partner works and it's given me some more freedom to trying to make the profession a bit more accessible to single people and people from poorer backgrounds. #PicturesMeanBusiness won't solve all the problems facing illustrators, but we need to fix the industry one step at a time: if illustrators don't have to lose brand-name recognition and the resulting loss of business because the industry, media and society at large are crediting them properly, we can focus our energies elsewhere, trying to make a living and making better books. And publishers will win in so many ways, including better searchability for their books in metadata, being able to grow their illustrators as brands that people want to search out and buy, and by gaining illustrator loyalty.

You can read more in this article by Tom Tivnan and Tom Holman, and find out about the other Rising Stars here. And, of course, find out about Pictures Mean Business at PicturesMeanBusiness.com. Do spread the word about the campaign!

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5. confused croissant

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6. down the rabbit hole with william grill

Today I met up with the winner of last year's Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration, William Grill, to talk about this year's Greenaway shortlist. We were hosted by Resonance FM 104.4 radio, with Down the Rabbit Hole presenters author Katherine Woodfine and agent Louise Lamont. (Oh, and Will's 13-year-old dog, Barney.) Across the desk here are Louise and Will in the station's Borough High Street studio.

And you can listen to the half-hour radio show here!

Here are the books we were discussing:

That was fun, thanks, everyone!


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7. we have NOT destroyed our children's future: looking for hope in brexit britain

I was away all weekend doing book-festival-related work in Manchester and didn't have much time to follow social media, but whenever I had a brief chance to dip in, I'd get hit with a massive wave of people's despair over the EU Referendum results. It felt like people were whipping themselves into a frenzy of thinking we were in a dystopian apocalypse like something you'd read about in The Road or The Hunger Games. People were saying we'd destroyed our children's future.

Cartoon by UK-based German illustrator Axel Scheffler, visual creator of The Gruffalo popular picture books

I was gutted; I'd voted Remain and I couldn't see how our country would go forward with a Brexit strategy, if it had one at all. (And it turned out no one DID have a strategy.) The economy is taking a big tumble. I ran into an old friend in a coffee shop who runs a building company, and he and his wife were having a very hard, worried discussion about what they were going to do now about their investments and contracts they were about to sign.

But the fact is, unless we've sterilised everyone in Britain and killed everyone under the age of 18, we haven't destroyed our children's future. The future's not some puddle that we can stamp in and muddy; that's called the present. The good thing about the future is that we're not allowed to touch it, it's always ahead of us, and we will change and adapt to survive in the years ahead. Of course our children will have 'futures', even if they're not quite what we would want for them. Maybe they will do some things better than we did because our generation were too narrow-minded to see certain options.

In the meantime, we can make a positive impact on the children around us, the Leave vote's not going to stop that. Authors I know are visiting schools all over the country - even this past weekend - inspiring kids to create their own stories, think up new ways of seeing things, empathise with other people, try to imagine a better future than the present they're living in.

I was listening to a swimming instructor this morning giving kids confidence to float. I visited the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital over the weekend where hospital teaching staff were thinking of creative ways to help children learn, whether they were in hospital for three days or three years. And a charity called Readathon UK were providing them mobile library shelves so sick kids and their families have something to read.

These things are still happening and we can fight for them to keep going. Most importantly, parents, relatives and foster parents still love and care about their kids and want the best for them; that hasn't changed with the vote.

People are saying our country is wrecked. I've lived in the USA (for 21 years) and in Russia (for two years) and I can confidently say that we do some things much better than those two countries. In fact, I love this place so much that this is where I've chosen to stay (and I'm incredibly grateful to have had that option). I love the way in Britain that we value our history; it's written into the literature and fabric of our communities and we treasure and meticulously catalogue it so we can learn from the past. I love the landscape, I love its people's sense of humour.

But any country is like a family: we have embarrassing Grandpa Jo who keeps touching lady's bums. We have annoying Aunt Hazel who won't stop making vile jokes about the Nigerian neighbours. But unlike a country, we know everyone in the family pretty well: we know Grandpda Jo has dementia and isn't quite in control of what he does (which doesn't make it any less embarrassing, but he's not getting any better). And we know that Aunt Hazel got badly bullied by her classmates as a child and then by her partner, and always lived on the same road that's different now than it used to be; being racist is her attempt to have some control over her environment. It doesn't excuse what she says, but we do our best to try to help her see why what she's saying is incredibly unhelpful to everyone. Sometimes we get into big arguments with her and it takes awhile for the relationship to mend. But we look after her daughter; we have discussions with her, lend her books and watch movies with her, take her 'round to meet the neighbours (who have a kid her age), and help her see that there are more ways of seeing the world than the way her mother sees it, that she can make choices. Sometimes we learn unexpected things about Britain's history from Aunt Hazel, who's lived longer and seen things changing. We don't brand Joe and Hazel 'evil' from a safe Internet distance, we get on living with them as best we can.

I see a lot of good things happening in Britain. Last weekend I saw London Mayor Sadiq Khan standing firmly with the people taking part in the London Pride march. That guy's putting himself in a lot of danger from people who might see him as a traitor to his religion, but he's not letting that stop him.

I saw activist Peter Tatchell tweeting an article about the Pope, who says it's time for the Church to apologise for how it's treated gay people. Yes, the Church is massively messed up, but it's wonderful to hear its most influential member trying to turn it around. And sometimes we have to learn to speak to religious people in their own language; just yelling louder won't make them understand. To do this, we have to listen to people of faith who care deeply about social justice issues and aren't afraid of healthy debate. Don't ignore everything they say just because you don't believe in God or their particular religion. Or if you do, don't be surprised when they don't listen to you or vote as you would like them to.

And racism. Not all people who voted Leave did so for racist motives, but many hardcore racists seem to have taken the vote as validation for ugly words and behaviour. Racism isn't anything new, but the recent turmoil is making us re-examine who we are, hopefully listen to people from other backgrounds, and listen and discuss with them what's important to make our society function as harmoniously as possible. Listening will be a big part of that. And we always have to jump in immediately to show everyone we're not racist; sometimes we just need to listen and help those people's voices be heard.

The EU isn't perfect; it has some protectionist trade policies which deliberately keep other countries poor so that European countries can protect their own industries (using places such as Kenya as a source of raw materials but restricting their exports of processed goods to the EU). I don't even know enough about this, just that there are some incredibly unfair things happening because of EU decisions. Perhaps this shakeup will force people in Britain to look at the skeleton frame of how our society works, question how we set up new policies, and make better decisions. But it means trying to be aware, and I'm as guilty as anyone of keeping my head in the sand and citing overwhelming workload as my excuse to stay ignorant. We can't trust our leaders to know what's best, we have to ask questions and argue and fight for what's right, step by step. Twitter and Facebook won't be strong enough tools for that fight, we need to find more effective, non-violent methods.

We need to get creative. And friends in the book industry, isn't that what we do? We need to think creatively and ask questions. That doesn't mean all our work has to be serious and 'worthy'; sometimes humour has a lot more power to make people question the status quo than impassioned arguments. And not all our work will seem directly related to the cause; things such promoting Reading For Pleasure may mean we spend time helping kids to read (and make) comics about space cats or draw exploding toilets... that's perfectly valid! This isn't time spent away from building a better Britain, this is giving kids some building blocks to a life of literacy and educated questioning.

...And kids make find some of the building blocks of empathy and social awareness from things other than books - films, games, language exchange programmes, music, dance, volunteering at nursing homes and homeless shelters, after-school clubs, hiking, sports, activities - we need to accept that, too, and not think we're the big heroes in all this and that it's all about books. (Sometimes we book people do that.)

I guess what I'm saying is, I don't have all the answers, but whatever your Facebook feed is telling you, let's not write off our country and revel so much in the horror that we spread general feelings of powerlessness. Let's love our country, and love it in that active way that is a decision and a commitment as much as a feeling.

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8. #portraitchallenge: utamaro

Here's our #PortraitChallenge drawings from last Thursday! This time we were riffing on a 1801 woodblock print by Japanese master Utamaro. I played around, drawing mine without looking at the paper. (Can you spot the messy one?) :)

You can see more over at @StudioTeaBreak.

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9. pugs win independent bookshop week award 2016!

Why are my co-author Philip Reeve and I in Daunt Books Marylebone looking VERY excited?

We'd found out we'd won the children's book category for Pugs of the Frozen North in this year's Independent Bookshop Week Award! It's a celebration of indie bookshops, booksellers, and the amazing way they know their books so well and can stock and recommend just the right titles, and be real hubs in their communities. Besides selling books, indie bookshops have hosted wonderful events for us, knitted pugs, and encouraged us on social media, and we love them.

Philip has already blogged about it, and you can read more about the award in this Guardian article by Emily Drabble and over on the IndieBound website. And there's another article in The Bookseller here, by Lisa Campbell.

Big congrats to Emily MacKenzie, who won the Picture Book category, and Anne Enright, who won the Adult book category. Thanks to all the judges (Nicolette Jones, 2015 winner Sally Nicholls, Steven Pryse from Pickled Pepper Bookshop and Carrie Morris from Booka Bookshop). And thanks, of course, Britain's marvelous indie bookshops!

This kicks off Independent Bookseller Week and the best way to celebrate is to go down to your local indie and buy some books! :) If you don't have a local, Stephen Holland at Page 45 in Nottingham and lots of other shops are more than happy to post things to you. (Stephen's hand-sold SO many copies of Pugs of the Frozen North! Oh, and here's a link to my website in case you want to knit a pug or learn how to draw one.

Louisa Mellor at Den of Geek is compiling a list of top indies so go on over and add your fave if you don't see it there. You can watch developments from the week over on Twitter: #IBW2016

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10. esther marfo

Here's a drawing of the talented lady who makes a lot of my dresses, Esther Marfo.

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11. new handbag i just had to show you

I'm not really a shoes & handbags kind of gal, but Yasmin from the bead shop just set me up with this corker. I love it so much, it looks like some sort of strange carnival teapot. It's sitting by my desk and I keep reaching over affectionately to pat its belly.

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12. raven girl, seagull lady

Happy birthday, Audrey Niffenegger! Audrey taught me how to do etching in her studio in Chicago last summer and I don't have etching facilities here so I tried to fake something that sort of looks like an etching with aquatint.

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13. fashion show with esther marfo

Here are some photos of my very brief modeling career! :D

On Saturday, a few friends and I went along to the fashion show of my amazing tailor Esther Marfo. She makes lots of the dresses I wear to festivals and things, and she's amazing. Here are all her models lined up together.

And Esther herself! If I just draw a picture of the outfit I'm thinking of, she's able to make it, without a pattern or anything.

Photo from Esther Blessed Facebook page

I used to pop in to see Esther all the time at her shop on the high street, but she's since closed shop and started working from home. If you want to commission some work from Esther, you can find her on her Facebook page as Esther Blessed.

(You can see a bit more of her work over on the #EstherMarfo hashtag on Twitter.)

Photo from Esther Blessed Facebook page

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14. interview with irish children's laureate pj lynch!

New Irish Laureate na nOg PJ Lynch is going to be recording a series of interviews with different illustrators, and I was lucky enough to be his first person! Here's a chat we had at Listowel Writers' Week about drawing, influences, a peek at a stage event with Philip Reeve and a tutorial, how to draw one of the pugs from Pugs of the Frozen North. Hope you enjoy it! :)

You can follow PJ Lynch on Twitter: @PJLynchArt

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15. #portraitchallenge: sylvia von harden by otto dix

Thanks to everyone who took part in Thursday's #PortraitChallenge, over on @StudioTeaBreak! Click on the links to see if any more pop up, and here's more information about painter Otto Dix and his 1926 subject, journalist Sylvia von Harden (whose painting self has a brief cameo in the opening of the film Cabaret).

(Here was mine, a bit larger):

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16. ireland: listowel writers' week 2016

This weekend Pugs of the Frozen North met the blazing heat of the west coast of Ireland for Listowel Writers' Week and The National Children's Literary Festival. The lovely Irish even provided us with a splendid pug named Oscar!

Listowel's gorgeous, my co-author Philip Reeve and I had fun wandering around looking at the beautifully painted shop fronts, bakeries and pubs.

And we even got to meet the wee folk! Here I am, after partaking of the 'Drink Me' bottle, meeting the Queen of Listowel.

I didn't get time to do a lot of drawing (other than on stage) but here's a rough one I did after a couple hours at John B. Keane's pub.

Our first event was to a couple hundred kids for a Pugs of the Frozen North schools event. Here's Philip showing off the yellow trousers he uses to scare off polar bears.

Tweeted by Sarah Webb

We got to see some excellent pug drawings...

The following day, we did another Pugs event, then I did a Dinosaur Police picture book event. And I'm VERY SAD I don't have any photos of Philip being Trevor the T-Rex. He did an excellent job.

I did a little experiment for the drawing part of the event; usually I just teach everyone how to draw a T-Rex, but I got a bit more ambitious and thought I'd start them off making their own T-Rex-themed book.

It was quite a stretch, particularly for the concentration span of the youngest children, but their parents were awesome about pitching in and helping, and I actually had a slightly older crowd than usual for this event, so lots of them tackled the project admirably.

In this one you can see the cover, decorated front endpapers, three pages of story, and a back cover with blurb and price tag.

I was impressed with what the kids did and I hope they go away and finish their books, it'd be fun to see how they do it. I told them that the difference between an aspiring author and an author is that an author finishes creating the books. So if they finish making their book, they will be a genuine authors. Which is true! And to be a published author, all they need is to make more than one copy of the book (with a handy photocopier or printer), and that's being self-published. So perhaps we will get a few self-published authors coming out of that event.

Tweeted by Sarah Webb

One of the fun things about book festivals is catching up with friends I've seen in various events around the country in past years. Here's the most excellent Kim Harte, who is a Book Doctor! You can go into her Book Clinic and she will listen to what you're interested in and recommend books you might like. It was very popular, I don't think she had even time for a loo break for four hours!

Here's Ireland's new Children's Laureate na nÓg, illutrator PJ Lynch. Philip and I got to see an exhibition of his work from the span of his career at St John's Theatre in the centre of town. He did a video interview with me about drawing, so maybe I'll get to post that fairly soon.

More fun guests we ran into: Joanne Harris (whom we'd gotten to know a bit at the Emirates Lit Fest a couple years ago)

And Francesca Simon and Steven Butler, whom we actually see fairly often!

Writer Sarah Webb was in charge of Author Care for the children's book part of the festival, and we couldn't have been cared for better. Sarah's one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet, but she also manages to do ten times more than any of us. Here she is with PJ and Alan Nolan (who was very nice in giving us lots of lifts in his car).

It'd been cold in London but Ireland was ROASTING hot. Here's Philip, attempting some extreme sunscreen:

Huge thanks to everyone who helped make the festival run so smoothly!

Here's Liz Dunn, the chair of the festival, who was awesome at making sure we always had good food and drink and introduced us to lots of people.

I wasn't in Ireland very long, but one morning I did manage to get down to the beach at Ballybunnion with Philip right before our event. (Which explains why I'm here in a sea cave in slightly odd beach wear.)

And a few more shots of Philip and me attempting to make the perfect Irish rock album cover.

You can follow Listowel Writers' Week on their Facebook page and Twitter.

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17. treacle, canine life model

Today Elissa and I have a canine life model in the studio!

If you look in the front of Jampires, this cutiepie gets a mention in my picture book with David O'Connell. :) Treacle's surprisingly tricky to draw!

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18. david o'connell & francesca gambatesa: when i'm a monster like you, dad!

So my Jampires co-author David O'Connell has just released another picture book! This time he wrote the book, and HarperCollins teamed him up with illustrator Francesca Gambatesa, and it's all about fathers, and out just in time for Father's Day! :) (Here's a link to it on Francesca's website, where you can see some early sketches of When I'm a Monster Like You, Dad!.)

So a bunch of us went along to Gosh Comics in Soho to celebrate! Gosh are awesome at not only stocking comics, but also a range of other illustrated books, often by people who also make comics. Here's a photo nabbed from Gosh's Facebook page. (I wore my new flourescent jumper, wahey.)

A big congrats to Francesca because, while she's done lots of other illustration work in different formats, this is her first picture book, and it's lovely. Hurrah! (We agreed that picture books are quite a lot of work and take quite a lot of time to illustrate.)

Here's Dave doing a dramatic reading with one of Francesca's pictures on the screen. It's about a little monster who thinks he can have fun being big and scary like his dad as a grownup, but the dad shows his kid how they can have fun together right now.

And then there was a big signing. (Stuart got our copy dedicated to both of us and we shall treasure it.)

Fab to see writer-illustrator friends Laura Ellen Anderson, Jamie Littler and my studio mate Elissa Elwick:

And the crafty artists Sami Teasdale and my former studio mate Lauren O'Farrell (aka Deadly Knitshade):

Side note: did you see the amazing phone box cosie that Lauren and Sami knitted for The Clangers?

Photo by David Jensen from Knit The City Facebook page

Thanks to Gosh's lovely Steven Walsh, Nora Goldberg (and Tom Oldham who was manning the basement) for hosting!

And since I was practically the only person who'd never tweeted a selfie from the Gosh loo, that was WHAT I GONE AND DONE.

Huge congrats, Dave and Francesca!

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19. almost finished

I've almost finished illustrating Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair! I ought to celebrate by tidying my desk.

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20. scottish friendly children's book tour 2016

All this week I've been on an illustration book tour of the Scottish Highlands! At first I thought I was going to have to do it solo, but I asked Beth Bottery at Scottish Book Trust if I could bring Stuart along and she said yes. Then all my knitted book characters decided they wanted to come along, too.

This is the first time I've ever gone on an extended tour with Stuart! And he wasn't just tagging along, he was WORKING. In fact, I thought I'd let him do the blogging. So... OVER TO STUART:

Hi, everyone! My first job was help Doug the Pug sharpen up his drawing skills in anticipation of all the pictures he was going to be making during the course of the week. He drew some pictures on the train.

Here's one he did of me!

And here's one he did of the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. You can't get more Scottish than that.

Our first port of call was GLASGOW, to see Sarah's auntie.

On Sunday, Beth Bottery and Thomas Jefferson from Scottish Book Trust came to pick us up and drove us all the way to Thurso, right in the north of Scotland.

Here they are in the wilds of the Highlands.

Here are a couple of snapshots of Thurso in late evening.

MONDAY, 9 May:

My first stage appearance was at Mount Pleasant Primary School in Thurso (coordinated by Suzanne Urquhart) and Pennyland Primary came along, too. Here I am with Sarah in my new role as PROFESSOR SNOWSTORM!

I'm supposed to know a lot about the different types of snow in Sarah and Philip Reeve's book Pugs of the Frozen North. Being on stage was exciting but also a bit nerve-racking. Luckily I didn't mess up too many of my lines.

Here are some books the children made in advance, which are pretty impressive.

For the afternoon, Miller Academy Primary School (and Pat Ramsay) hosted us, along with visiting school Melvich Primary. At each visit we created a board game, featuring a race to the North Pole from the school. We wanted to give them ideas on creating a story, how (like a board game) it needs a beginning, an end, and perils in the middle. This group game up with some really unusual perils, culminating in the greatest peril: Donald Trump.

We also met Reading Champion Alex Patience, who works with the kids on this reading scheme.

On a beautiful evening - tropical for Thurso! - Sarah made a new friend named Kali.


We visited Castletown Primary School, just outside Thurso, with the visit coordinated by Rhona Moodie. Having a day's practice, I was beginning to get into my character a bit more. Things didn't seem to be quite so scary, particularly when the class was a bit smaller.

Tom took us to a roadside cafe for lunch, just outside Wick, The Rumblin' Tum. It felt like something you might find in the Australian outback.

Sarah took this photo of Tom and me and mystery guest in the background.

In the afternoon, we were at Noss Primary School (which was only a few weeks old!), with Watten Primary visiting. Headmaster Ally Budge had really researched Sarah and Beth told us he'd filled out the application form for the visit in Russian! (Sarah and I both speak some Russian.) This was our largest event yet, with more than 200 children. The school gave Sarah a very thoughtful Russian-themed gift, Baggage by Marshak & Lebedev.

We drove on to Tain and stayed in the Royal Hotel, which was very grand.

Tain was lovely, with some very striking buildings.

We had dinner at the restaurant at Tain railway station. Sarah shot this video because she thought Beth had a wonderful Hull accent.

During the week the four of us did some drawing challenges. Here's our #ShapeChallenge drawings. (Can you guess who drew which one?) Sarah sets daily Shape Challenges on Twitter which you can discover at @StudioTeaBreak.


In the morning we visited Knockbreck Primary School in Tain (coordinated by Mhairi Miller), with Dornoch Academy visiting. Sarah drew this picture of her and Doug the Pug but she forgot to take any more photos.

After lunch, we headed to Strathpeffer Primary School (hosted by Carolyn Ritchie and Mr Spence), with visiting school Mulbuie St Clements.

The afternoon was so sunny that we sat out on the lawn of our hotel and did a Comic Jam together. Here are some teaching videos if you want to learn how to do a Comic Jam in your school.

Beth shot this video of the Comic Jam at different stages.


Our first stop was Teanassie Primary School (with Sharon Gallacher), with visiting school Beauly Primary, which was our most intimate event with just over 30 children. When we drove in, we saw the chickens and three pigs the school raise.

Everyone on our tour loved knitted Doug the Pug, designed by Lauren O'Farrell (aka Deadly Knitshade). Here's the link if anyone wants to download the free pattern from Sarah's website. And here are some of the pugs the children drew at Teanassie:

In the afternoon we arrived in Inverness to visit Drakies Primary School (coordinated by Rebecca Fleming), with visiting school Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Inbhir Nis. Drakies were very excited about the visit and prepared some posters to advertise Sarah's event to the other children. Sarah was so pleased!

Drakies even tweeted to Sarah before the event (@DrakiesPS). She loves it when teachers and pupils prepare things before the visit and this group made lots of great stuff.

Even after the visit, this mum sent us a picture which made us all go 'Awww'.

On Sarah's drawing challenge @StudioTeaBreak, Thursday is #PortraitChallenge day. Here's a family portrait of pop stars if they were animals.


My costume for the week included wearing this pair of yellow trousers. Don't park on my double yellow lines!

For our final day, we began at Crown Primary School in Inverness, organised by James Cook.

The school had a blog up by the same evening! We got some very encouraging feedback from the teachers, including one who said in twelve years of teaching, it was the best event she had seen and gave the teachers lots of ideas of things to do with the kids later.

And finally, Hilton Primary School (with Amy Fraser) and visiting school Cradlehall Primary. We received a warm welcome from the dinner ladies!

The dinner ladies even baked us banana flapjack! This was our biggest event. It will be funny telling my colleagues back at work what I've been doing all week.

Here are cards Sarah drew for Tom and Beth, thanking them for all their hard work. Thank you very much, guys!! And to all the schools who hosted us, Scottish Book Trust, and our sponsors Scottish Friendly.

This was a never-to-be-forgotten week! It gave me a whole new perspective of Sarah's work. I hope all the children we met go away and do a lot more drawing, writing and reading. I might try to do some more drawing, too!

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21. reeve & mcintyre book 4... finished!

I finally finished illustrating my upcoming book with Philip Reeve, Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair!

The book's not finished; Jo Cameron still has to do a lot of placement work with all the files I've had to fix because there were little picture mistakes, and Liz Cross is checking with the proof reader that there aren't any text mistakes, and then it has to go the printer, etc. With Cakes in Space, Liz, Clare Whitston and Jo had to send the books back to the printer because I'd used SO much heavy ink with all the black outer-space stuff that the pages didn't have enough time to dry and went wrinkly! (But the printer fixed it and everything was okay in the end.)

For Bologna Book Fair, the OUP book team printed up a sampler with the first three chapters, so here's a little peek at them. These are what are called the 'endpapers', even though they're right in the beginning and set the scene.

Philip really likes the slappy satellite. (I'm not sure why it's slappy, I just stuck a glove on it to make it look more interesting.)

And here's Emily, in her bedroom on Funfair Moon!

Emily's based very much on my studio mate Elissa Elwick and Emily wants to be a funfair engineer more than anything in the world. (Not our world, an alien world that's all funfair.)

That's Elissa on the right in the yellow, celebrating with cake, and craft team Lauren O'Farrell (who designed the knitted Pug, Sea Monkey and Jampire patterns) and her working partner Sami Teasdale.

The book doesn't come out 'til September but I'm already excited! Go go Jo and Liz and book team! :D

Edit: Here's a photo just in from designer Jo, who is ON THE CASE! :D

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22. thursday #portraitchallenge: ignatius sancho by allan ramsay

Here's my #PortraitChallenge for today! It's a 1750s portrait of Ignatius Sancho, painted by Allan Ramsay. (You can find out more about it here.) Check @StudioTeaBreak to see other people's drawings!

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23. #picturesmeanbusiness: herald scotland

If you're in Scotland, look out for a copy of today's Herald, I have an article in it! You can also read it online here:

herald article

Yesterday's #PortraitChallenge got me fired up to do some more pictures with actual paint. I've been doing a lot of digital work, and sometimes digital works best for me, but then I miss working with real paper in front of me the whole time. Here's a not-very-accurate self portrait, painted in watercolour, and when it was just pencil linework.

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24. draw it! colour it! beasts

A whole bunch of us have a new activity/colouring book coming out on 8 Sept, Draw It! Colour It! Beasts! Here's my two pages in it:

You can pre-order it on lots of book websites or you can buy our first book now, Draw It! Colour It! Creatures. It's fun being included with so many other amazing illustrators.

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25. pamela butchart & thomas flintham take top fcbg children's book award!

Hooray for writer Pamela Butchart and illustrator Thomas Flintham whose book yesterday won the Overall Award at the Federation of Children's Book Group's award ceremony in London! What's also awesome is that the media is featuring BOTH the writer and the illustrator in their coverage!

This dual coverage doesn't happen by chance; publisher Nosy Crow has been very active in the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign and making sure illustrators are credited, and the FCBG people writing the press releases must have been on the case about it. Media journalists may even be wising up! So big thanks to everyone who's making this happen! :)

Screenhshot photos: BBC Breakfast tweeted by @bookloverJo and CBBC Newsround by @Pamela_Butchart

Here are a few more photos from yesterday's ceremony. Thanks for inviting me, Louise Stothard from FCBG! And thanks to Jane Etheridge, Sarah Stuffins and everyone else on the FCBG team who made it happen. It was fun running into lovely be-frocked authors Pamela and Jeanne Willis at the front door of the Union Jack Club:

Here are Thomas and Pamela winning their 'Books for Younger Readers' category award:

And then the Overall Award:

I got to meet author Sarah Crossan for the first time (who also won in her 'Books for Older Readers' category):

And writer-illustrator Richard Byrne:

The kids and their FCBG leaders put together beautiful albums of artwork and letters about each book and I caught a glimpse of Richard's:

And Viv Schwarz's (whose Is there a Dog in This Book? won the 'Books for Younger Children' category award):

Steven Butler did a fab job presenting... (Oh look, it's Walker Books editor Lizzie Spratt!)

And Korky Paul drew up an absolute storm on kids' lunch napkins (sadly not shown here):

Readers presenting albums to Guy Parker-Rees and Gareth Edwards:

And to Tony Ross and Francesca Simon:

Adrian Reynolds and Jeanne Willis:

Author Kim Slater:

Author Polly Ho-Yen tweeted a couple photos:

Oo, look at those hooligans at the back... I spot my studio mate Elissa Elwick and her new picture-book-partner-in-crime, beardy Philip Ardagh.

I just went along to see people, none of my books were up for awards. But indie bookseller Tales on Moon Lane cheerfully provided them anyway and it was fun getting to meet readers who loved them and those who were just about to dive in.

Thanks to Carousel editor David Blanche for slipping me a copy of Carousel and making Philip Reeve 'n' me look dead famous in front of a bunch of kids. :)

Hugs all 'round, a lovely sunny afternoon.

You can read more about the shortlist and awards over on the FCBG blog here.

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